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Passion and Discipline

The happiness of a man in this life does not consist in the absence but in the mastery of his passions. -Alfred Lord Tennyson

I think discipline may start with things we are passionate about and carry over into other areas of our life. That’s probably why it’s hard to find in places where we are not passionate, but perhaps need it the most. When we are passionate about something, it feels relatively natural to find ways to improve and do more of whatever it is we love. There is an intrinsic motivation to push on and excel. Adding further discipline only adds fuel to the fire.

The funny thing is, the more that you push on that passion, the more it begins to carry over into your daily life. For example, my passion is Powerlifting. There is something about being able to move massive amounts of iron that I love. It’s part physical, part problem solving, part discipline. And as I push harder at it, I find that I need to do things like changing my diet in order to excel at the thing that I love. While it is no mystery how eating might affect strength, eating is nevertheless a peripheral activity to my training. It’s something that is integral to the rest of my life as well. So the added discipline of changing my eating habits is driven by my lifting, but it carries over into other activities that are not directly related to lifting.

Now, if you had asked me to change my eating habits outside the context of lifting there would be a very different result. While I might agree with you that improving my dietary habits would be healthy, frankly summing up some sort of real passion for the idea would be a strain at best. You see, like many people, I’ve been down the diet road before. And it never really works out because I really have no passion for eating well by itself. Don’t get me wrong, eating well makes you feel good, but I have no passion for that. Let’s face it, eating cheesecake feels darn good too. So as a result, diet for diet’s sake has never worked out for me.

On the other hand, if I need to lose weight for conditioning, that is a different matter. If, for example, I have to lose weight in order to qualify for a weight class at a competition, then all of a sudden I’m powerfully motivated to eat differently (or not at all). Suddenly I find the dietary discipline that I never had before. Why? Because it’s tied to something that I’m passionate about.

It strikes me that if we follow our passions we may find that the more they bleed into the rest of our lives, the more we can take advantage of their benefits: discipline, creativity, improvement, and so on. So where is your passion?

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